I do not think there is a festival as big, spontaneous, and colorful anywhere in the world as the San Pacho Festivals in Quibdó, Chocó.
Zoe Timea Mihadas
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The San Pacho Festivals last for twenty days and are an excellent example of syncretism between Catholicism and African religions.
In late September and early October, in the middle of the jungle crossed by the Atrato River, a large cultural event takes place in honor of the patron saint of the capital of Chocó: Saint Francis of Assisi.
The feasts are lovingly called the feasts of San Pacho, Pacho being the saint’s nickname. They last twenty days and constitute a true immaterial treasure and an excellent example of the sincretism between Catholicism and several African religions.
Beginning on the September 20, and during the following twenty days, Quibdó, the capital of the department, becomes a stage for a huge party. The chocoanos decorate the streets with flags, parades and costumed groups take over the Franciscan quarters of the city, and the statue of Saint Francis is taken on a tour all over the city.
The people of Quibdó have been celebrating these festivals as they are today since 1926, on the date of the hundredth anniversary of the city's patron saint, Francisco of Assisi.
The Fiesta de San Pacho has quite a long story behind it. It was celebrated for the first time on October 4, 1648, when a group of Franciscan missionaries arrived on the Colombian Pacific coast with an image of Saint Francis of Assisi and the goals of converting the Indians to Catholicism and searching for gold.
That year, the Franciscans organized a religious ceremony with boat processions headed by the image of the saint.
Modern celebrations began in 1926 on the 100th anniversary of the death of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was named patron saint of the city of Quibdó.
Today, true carnival elements are added to the sacred character of the feast. It takes place among parades, costumes, and dances to the rhythm of the chirimía chocoana. Chirimía is the generic name of the folk music of the department of Choco; it encompasses an impressive variety of rhythms played by clarinets, cymbals, several kinds of drums, and saxophones.
For further information, please visit the official website of the feasts.